LANCASTER – Under the direction of first-year head coach Nicole Brouillard, the University of Antelope Valley women’s volleyball program will look to improve its record during the 2019 season after finishing its 2018 campaign with a 5-25 (.167) overall record and a 5-11 (.313) California Pacific Conference mark, finishing eighth out nine teams in the conference standings.
The Pioneers enter the season without last season’s most productive offensive player, Alison Fuata and the program’s most prolific setter, Kaycee Shaffer, but return several key contributors such as junior defensive specialist Aleina Gabriel (Kent, WA), senior outside hitter Shea O’Brien (Issaquah, WA), sophomore outside hitter Sualua Pepe (Lakewood, CA), senior setter Raevyn Kaupu (Hilo, HI), and senior outside hitter Camryn Buell (Lakewood, WA).
Though she missed part of her sophomore season due to injury, Gabriel enters her junior campaign ranked second in the program’s history in digs behind Dionicia Colon-Mateo, who the Pioneers lost in the offseason due to graduation, with 780-career digs, and currently holds the program’s single-season digs record of 471, setting the mark as a freshman in 2017.
O’Brien red-shirted last season, but returns to help power the Pioneers offensively, already holding program records such as most kills in a match (28), kills in a season (359), total attacks in a season (1,333), and attacks per set in a season (11.39).
She is joined offensively by Pepe who had a standout freshman season a year ago, ranking third all-time in kills in a season with 803, totaling 2.31 kills per set, the fifth-highest in a season in program history, also finishing her inaugural season as a Pioneer with 22 kills in a single match, the third-most in program history.
Kaupu will look to anchor UAV’s offense as the team’s primary setter after serving as the secondary option last season behind Shaffer. In 91 sets played a year ago, Kaupu totaled 297 assists, ranked fifth-best in a single season in program history, as she also recorded 180 digs and 20 kills.
Buell enters her final season atop many categories in the UAV record book, including number one in single-season service aces (44), second in career service aces (80) and fourth in career digs (481). She will look to build on an impressive 2018 season in which she finished with 218 digs, 36 service aces, 32 kills, and 19 assists.
In order to achieve a winning season in 2019, the Pioneers will have to go through many tough opponents, including two NAIA Preseason Top-25 programs and another program receiving votes for the top-25.
UAV kicks off the season by playing three matches in the La Sierra Invitational, hosted by La Sierra University from Aug. 21-22, before facing its first top-25 ranked opponent, Westmont College on the road on Aug. 27. The Pioneers then continue along their season opening seven-match road trip with a pair of games at Saint Katherine before heading to Costa Mesa to face the No. 18-ranked Lions of Vanguard University on Sept. 5.
After concluding their long road stint, the Pioneers open things at home by hosting Cal Tech for a back-to-back on Sept. 14 and then open Cal Pac play with four games on the road, beginning with a match at Pacific Union on Sept. 19, and concluding the road trip with a match at Providence Christian on Sept. 26.
A three-match home stand is next on the calendar for UAV as they host Marymount California on Sept. 28, Benedictine-Mesa on Oct. 4 and Embry-Riddle on Oct. 5.
The Pioneers then hit the road for a match at La Sierra on Oct. 12 before returning home to host Simpson, Pacific Union and UC Merced during a three-match home stand from Oct. 17-19.
Next, the team travels south of Los Angeles to play a match at Marymount California on Oct. 24, then returns home for one match against Providence Christian before hitting the road, this time for a two-match Arizona trip, facing Embry-Riddle on Nov. 1 and Benedictine-Mesa on Nov. 2.
Lastly, the Pioneers return back to Lancaster to host La Sierra for the final match of the regular season on Senior Night, as UAV honors its senior players in their final game inside the Pioneer Event Center.